How to Install a Modern Lock Set on a C1 Corvette

Under Lock And Key - Improving C1 convenience and security with a modern lock set

Jay Heath Dec 30, 2013 0 Comment(s)
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Like a night in a Mexicali jail or a ride on a particularly nauseating theme-park attraction, the job of restoring a vintage Corvette often seems far more exciting when viewed from a safe temporal remove, long after the paint dust has settled and the bloodied knuckles scabbed over.

1958 Chevrolet Corvette Door 2/30

In the case of our '58 project car, we've done our best to schedule the “fun” projects early in the process, adding custom wheels; dropping in a shiny, new fuel tank; and executing a period-faithful performance makeover on the stroked small-block engine. But with most of the big-ticket fixes struck from our to-do list, it eventually came time to turn our attention to some of the more prosaic details of the restoration.

High on our roster of tedious-but-necessary tasks was the job of replacing the car's aging lock cylinders, whose functionality ranged from partial to nonexistent. The ignition key was also MIA, meaning the only way to start the engine was by leaving the steering column unlocked and cranking it over without one.

It's worth noting that even if your C1's original locks remain operational, installing an updated set still confers a welcome benefit: Because most replacement kits use a single key cut for all of the included lock cylinders, you'll no longer need to tote around two different keys for complete access to the car.

For parts, we relied on Michigan-based Corvette Central, from whose vast product inventory we've drawn liberally over the course of this project. While we opted for CC's basic lock kit (PN 501101, $119.00) to keep our investment to a minimum, the company also offers a “Super” version of this package (PN 501100) for a few bucks more. Priced at $165, the latter includes all the contents of the base kit—specifically, a full complement of lock cylinders and a pair of keys—while adding the bezels, retainers, and trunk-lock rod you'll need to execute the install on a fully stripped body.

Let's take a look at the installation process, which, in keeping with our pattern up till now, took place at AntiVenom in Seffner, Florida. Though the job itself isn't overly challenging, there are a few tips you'll want to keep in mind as you work. Count on spending around two hours on the project.

Corvette Central Basic Lock 3/30

01 We selected Corvette Central’s basic lock set (PN 501101, $119) for our installation project. The package comes with new lock cylinders for the doors, trunk, glovebox/center console, and ignition, along with a pair of set-specific keys in a period-faithful design.

1958 Chevrolet Corvette Trunk 4/30

02 We started with the trunk lock, mostly because it’s the easiest one of the bunch. Begin by gently prying off the cylinder’s spring-clip retainer, which can be found inside the lock housing. It’s virtually impossible to photograph, due to its location, but you should be able to ID it using the pictures that follow as a reference.

1958 Chevrolet Corvette Trunk 5/30

03 With the retainer free, break loose the cylinder, again using a long screwdriver. Then, simply use both hands to push it out through the mounting hole and remove it from the car.

1958 Chevrolet Corvette Remove 6/30
1958 Chevrolet Corvette Original 7/30

04 This photo shows how the original assembly fits together inside the lock housing.

1958 Chevrolet Corvette Transfer Bezel And Lock 8/30

05 You’ll need to transfer the bezel and lock rod from your stock setup onto the new cylinder. With that done, slide the whole assembly back into the mounting hole, reinstall the retainer, and you’re ready to move on to the ignition.

1958 Chevrolet Corvette Reinstall 9/30
1958 Chevrolet Corvette Remove Ignition Cylinder 10/30

06 Start by removing the ignition- cylinder bezel, using a specialty tool like the one shown here. These purpose-specific tools, which typically go for around $20 on eBay, are designed to liberate the bezel without scratching it.

1958 Chevrolet Corvette Wiring 11/30

07 With the bezel removed, the only thing holding the cylinder in the dash is the wiring bundle plugged into its base. Unhook that, and the assembly should come right out.

1958 Chevrolet Corvette Factory 12/30

08 Because the car’s ignition key had long since gone missing, we were forced to drill out the factory base to gain access to the internal lock pin. Start by popping off the outer key slot, as shown here.

1958 Chevrolet Corvette Drill 13/30

09 Next, drill out the cylinder until you have room to depress the lock pin with an angled pick.

1958 Chevrolet Corvette Depress 14/30

09 Next, drill out the cylinder until you have room to depress the lock pin with an angled pick.

1958 Chevrolet Corvette Insert New 15/30

10 At this point, you should be able to slide out the old cylinder and insert the new one in its place.

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